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Samael, "Passage" Album Review

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

The photo of the Moon is also on the cover for this 1996 studio album.

The photo of the Moon is also on the cover for this 1996 studio album.

A Few Basic Facts About "Passage"

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Genre: black metal vocals with an industrial metal edge to it

Length: 42 minutes and 17 seconds

The Significance of This Album for Switzerland's Samael

Passage is the 1996 studio album by Switzerland’s Samael. This album sees a sort of stylistic shift as the band has now moved away from its black metal origins to focus on a more industrial metal approach. In this case, it works out just fine and it is not a disappointment like it was for Theatre of Tragedy later in their career.

"Moonskin"

Lyrical Themes of the Album "Passage"

Lyrically, there is a departure from their earlier albums as well. Lyrically, this album focuses on more occult kind of themes. One example of this is in the song “Shining Kingdom.” Lyrically the song is about how a person took a trip to a place and then returned. He has forgotten what he was looking for or what his objective was.

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"Angel's Decay"

The Larger Context of the Album "Passage"

The vocals still have that rough edge to them so that hasn’t really changed very much at all. Because the musical approach to this album is different from its three earlier musical predecessors, it may come as a surprise or as a shock to the system of some fans. Even Samael changed their musical style in the 1990s so we could say that it was pretty much a certainty that they were going to experiment musically. But because of the techno/industrial nature of the album Passage may as well be considered a sort of acquired taste for some fans. I know that this term has been mentioned in so many reviews of this type but some albums may indeed be like that depending upon the person’s musical tastes. There is more of an emphasis on programmed drums as well as more of an electronic influence and for some fans that are used to hearing the black metal style Passage will be an album that will be a disappointment for them. Samael did move in a different direction musically but they did this later in the 1990s as opposed to making that change earlier. Every band is different in that regard. Passage in terms of its style has a sort of symphonic feel to it as well so it is not just your straightforward industrial metal. This album has the keyboards in it which is a unique aspect for this genre of metal. “Rain” is the first song that starts off this album and it sounds like something Septicflesh would use in their structure and sound. But Samael entered the music scene in 1987, three years before that mentioned band so these Swiss guys must have influenced Septicflesh and other bands. The vocals do resemble and or sound a bit like Tuomas Saukkonen but we must remind readers that Samael is the band that influenced these other bands.

It is always challenging to analyze an album’s title but the title could be influenced by the fact that these guys decided to experiment with different lyrical and musical styles and passed into the industrial metal realm. Then there are songs such as “Angel’s Decay” which have this sort of Paradise Lost feel to them because you can notice this by the style of the keyboard play.

Final Thoughts About Samael's 1996 Studio Album

Passage is not the best album from these Swiss metal veterans but it is a good experimental album in a decade that saw heavy metal take a kind of back seat to the rising grunge movement. This album is nowhere near being a musical flop as it is still well enough to be considered good. The mentioned song Angel’s Decay has a modern Dark Tranquillity vocal feel or approach to it as I can see.

© 2022 Ara Vahanian

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